Richard House. Picador, $35 (1,024p) ISBN 978-1-250-05243-8
Longlisted for the Man Booker, House’s thousand-plus-page
novel is an intense, frustrating yet unforgettable tale of U.S. contractors working amid corruption, betrayal, and murder in Iraq
after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The novel is made up of four
books. The first, “Sutler,” follows Brit John Ford (aka Sutler), a
contractor at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. After employer Paul
Geezler of HOSCO International instructs him to draw his final
payment using a convoluted system of accounts, a deadly
explosion sends Sutler on the run; Geezler claims the contractor
stole $53 million from funds allocated for the Massive, a military complex to be built in the desert. The Massive exists only
on paper, in contrast to Camp Liberty’s burn pits for destroying
medical and military waste, which are very real but undocumented. The second book, entitled “The Massive,” follows the
men who tend the burn pits, as each meets a premature
demise. In the fourth book, “The Hit,” Sutler is sighted at three
separate locations, and Geezler goes missing. Set apart from
books one, two, and four, the third book, “The Kill,” set in Naples
and populated with prostitutes and language students, is meta-fiction at its most gruesome. While it’s different from the other
three books, it addresses the same themes: how do killers
become killers? How do victims become victims? How do perpetrators turn into victims, and vice versa? How do money, people, places, and crimes disappear? House probes but does not
answer these questions. He presents intriguing characters and
enthralling scenarios, then leaves readers to make sense of it
all. This huge undertaking is notable for its ambition, and it
seduces with both its shortcomings and its accomplishments.
History of Violence
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